Prebiotics in Foods

Have you wondered what is prebiotics, or what is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? This article will answer the following questions:

What is prebiotics and how are prebiotics different from probiotics?
Are there any side effects of prebiotics?
What is the natural source of prebiotics?
Where can I get a prebiotics supplement?

 

What is Prebiotics?

Over the last few years, there is an increasing awareness of probiotics and the growth of probiotics has been amazing. But, have you heard of prebiotics? Like most people we talk to, they know about probiotics and look completely puzzled when we ask if they aware of prebiotics. When we first came across this term "prebiotics", we thought it was a spelling mistake.

The common question that is asked is "what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?" Don't worry, you have landed on the right page and we will explain about prebiotics and why are they really important for us maintaining good health, and also the deep connection between prebiotics and probiotics. 

Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fibre compound just like other high-fibre foods, prebiotic compounds — like the ones found in food like garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, dandelion greens and onions. They pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remain undigested since the human body can’t fully break them down. Once they pass through the small intestine, they reach the colon, where they’re fermented by the gut microflora. 

What is Gut Microflora? 

Gut microflora is the complex community of microorganisms (bacteria) that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals, including insects. In humans, the gut microbiota has the largest numbers of bacteria and the greatest number of species compared to other areas of the body and the gut flora is established soon after birth at one to two years. 

Science has shown that the human body is believed to carry around 100 trillion microorganisms in the intestines; ten times more than the total number of human cells, and the scientific research shows that when the balance between good and bad bacteria is disturbed, significant health problems can occur.

Whilst antibiotics may be the solution to fix a health issue, it does not distinguish between good and bad bacteria that caused the disease. Antibiotics destroy good and bad bacteria! This creates an imbalance when the patient is off antibiotics.  

The relationship between some gut flora and humans is a mutual relationship that is non-harmful co-existence. However, the good microflora does need a helping hand and intake of prebiotics foods and supplements is a great way to establish and maintain the good bacteria (probiotics).

Humans and the good microflora communities need each other! 

What part does prebiotics play?

Prebiotics are food ingredients that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms (e.g., bacteria and fungi). The most common example is in the gastrointestinal tract, where prebiotics can alter the composition of organisms in the gut microbiome.

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Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics are best known as a type of fibre called “oligosaccharides.” Today, when researchers refer to “fibre,” they’re speaking about not just one substance, but a whole group of different chemical compounds found in foods, including fructooligosaccharides, other oligosaccharides (prebiotics), inulin and polysaccharides.

According to Blaut M (Department of Gastrointestinal Microbiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition), author of  "Relationship of prebiotics and food to intestinal microflora": Prebiotics specifically stimulate the growth of endogenous microbial population groups such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli which are perceived as being beneficial to human health.

The key message is that prebiotics helps your good bacteria (probiotics). It is food for your good bacteria. 

Because the health of our gut is closely tied to many other bodily functions, prebiotics and probiotics together are important for battling inflammation and lowering overall disease risk.

The benefits of prebiotics far outweigh the costs not only financially but also mentally and physically. The list below provides some of the benefits and if we take the first benefit. lower risk of cardiovascular disease, then imagine all the hospital visits, medical costs, loss of income, mental stress coping with the disease and many other issues related to heart disease. So, before we get to that stage, it is important to make lifestyle choices, and part of that choice must be an intake of prebiotics.

What are the benefits of prebiotics?

Higher intakes of prebiotics are linked to benefits, including:

These benefits are nothing to downplay. Poor gut health is linked to so many illnesses and there are so many studies over the last few years showing the impact of poor gut health to our well being, physically and mentally. Whilst probiotics play a crucial role in keeping our microbiome in the gut in balance, but prebiotics equally play an important role in feeding the probiotics (healthy bacteria). Below is a video well worth viewing for better understanding the function of prebiotics.

 

Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat

CHICORY ROOT

Over 40% of Chicory root fibre comes from the prebiotic fibre inulin.

What is Inulin? Inulin is a soluble fibre found in many plants. Your gut bacteria convert it into short-chain fatty acids, which provide several health benefits.

The inulin in chicory root nourishes the gut bacteria, improves digestion and helps relieve constipation.

A study found that adaptation on increased doses of Chicory root or Jerusalem artichoke in bakery products stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria and may contribute to the suppression of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

In another study, the authors examined the effects of chicory root extract on blood glucose, lipid metabolism, and fecal properties in 47 healthy adult participants in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The result of the study suggests that chicory root extract could delay or prevent the early onset of diabetes mellitus and improve bowel movements.

Several herbs are rich in antioxidants, which, in plants, commonly come in the kind of compounds called phenolics. Chicory is really a rich source of those. 

DANDELION GREENS

Dandelion greens are high in fibre, which helps your body shed waste. The inulin fibre in dandelion greens reduces constipation, increases friendly bacteria in the gut and boosts the immune system.

Whilst most of us regard dandelion as a pest in our garden and lawns and kill them with sprays, it is time to rethink. This free food has many benefits that may surprise you.

Dandelion offers medicinal and culinary uses and all parts of the dandelion are edible. They can be eaten steamed, roasted, dried or even raw.

Other Benefits of Dandelion

Not only dandelions are loaded with antioxidants, but they are also high in vitamin A in the form of the antioxidant carotenoid, otherwise known as beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C.  They are an especially good source of calcium and iron, along with a number of other minerals like magnesium, manganese, copper, phosphorus and potassium.

Dandelion contains more protein per serving than spinach, with the greens themselves providing all essential amino acids. But wait, there is more! The roots contain inulin and luteolin, which are known to help regulate blood sugar as well as taraxacin which aids in stimulating digestion.

The benefits of all the goodness in dandelion can be summarised as follows:

Improvement of complexion- thanks to its magnesium and zinc content, as well as its potential ability to support detoxification, dandelion greens are great for improving your complexion and supporting healthier skin.

Fight skin infections- the milky white substance that you find when you break a dandelion stem can also assist in fighting a skin infection because it is not only highly alkaline, but it offers fungicidal and germicidal properties. This can help relieve the symptoms of a number of skin conditions, including the irritation and itching of eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm.

Lowering blood pressure- Dandelions diuretic properties may help to increase urination frequency and quantity is believed to be behind this ability. Also, it has a high level of potassium, which is well-known for reducing blood pressure.

Supporting liver health- the nutrients in dandelions help to cleanse the liver to keep it working the way it is meant to. They aid the liver (and entire digestive system) by helping to maintain the proper flow of bile. Why is this important? The bile produced by the liver helps enzymes in the body break fats down into fatty acids, as well as to detoxify and filter the blood.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE

A 2016 study showed that Jerusalem Artichoke modified the microbiota ecology in the large intestine of young pigs to a greater extent than chicory root. Jerusalem artichokes contain plenty of inulin, which stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria and fights harmful bacteria. A high-fibre diet can normalize bowel movements.

There are a number of health benefits of Jerusalem Artichoke.

GARLIC

According to Healthline, approximately, 11% of garlic's fibre content comes from inulin and 6% from a sweet, naturally occurring prebiotic called fructooligosaccharides (FOS).

Garlic is traditionally believed to have many health benefits including prevention of gastrointestinal diseases. One of the major components, garlic fructan (GF), was evaluated in a 2013 study for its prebiotic effectiveness on human intestinal microflora. In this study, GFs were found to selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria from human fecal microflora. The prebiotic effectiveness of GFs supports the use of garlic as a way to prevent some gastrointestinal diseases.

Your Next Step

It is important that prebiotics is part of your healthy living.